Review by: KEN KORCZAK
Physicist BRUCE MACCABEE has been a significant figure in ufology for some 50 years. He holds a Ph.D. earned from American University, Washington D.C. He is often referred to as an “optics physicist” because of his work with optical data processing for the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, later known as the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
He also worked on underwater lasers to generate subsurface sound and made significant contributions on aspects of SDI, Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” space-based defense platform.
For those of us who have been addicted to UFO stuff for decades, Dr. Maccabee is an instantly recognizable face. Starting in the 1970s he began popping up in UFO documentaries on TV and film, usually as an analyst of anomalous photographs and video.
If Bruce Maccabee pronounced an image or video footage “authentic” or “unexplainable by natural means” – well, that really meant something. With his serious scientific credentials, he could not be written off as just another flake.
Dr. Maccabee is also a dogged researcher who has made enormous efforts to obtain all manner of military and government documents relating to UFOs. A major milestone was getting his hands on the secret “flying disc files” of the FBI – yes, there really was an actual FBI “X-Files.”
So, in this short book, THE LEGACY OF 1952: YEAR OF THE UFO, Maccabee offers an important perspective on where things stand in UFO research today, and “how we got here,” for better or worse.
He argues that early on, but especially in the year 1952, certain protocols became set in stone in terms of how our military and government would treat the UFO issue and how they would relate what they knew (or did not know) to the taxpaying public they serve.
Those protocols hardened into “tradition,” Maccabee writes, in 1952 and have remained largely unchanged since. The result is wide ranging and enormous. An entire American generation grew up with a government that either denied the “reality” of the UFO phenomenon … or for any case it could not explain, no matter how sensational, the policy was to suggest it could be explained in common terms if more facts were obtained.
What was so special about 1952? Well, that year witnessed a remarkable explosion of UFO sightings. Thousands of reports poured into media outlets, local police and various government agencies. It seems no location in America was spared.
The most significant is known as the “WASHINGTON FLAP” occurring from July 12 through July 29 in the summer of 1952. It was an amazing time! Suddenly, “swarms of UFOs” began appearing over the American capital city. And it wasn’t just sightings. The objects were routinely captured on radar. Jets were scrambled to pursue the objects. Our best-trained fighter pilots observed UFOs with their own eyes. The “saucers” routinely outdistanced the F-94s and other assets that chased them – and when the jets ran low on fuel forcing them to cut off chase and return – the UFOs would sometimes turn around and come right back!
It was impossible for anyone to be in denial of what was happening!
The sightings were making headlines in major papers across the nation. Also unable to ignore the events was President Harry Truman himself. Truman was alarmed enough to call top people in the Air Force to get some answers.
Stop for a minute and think about that. The President of the United States picks up the phone, calls his Top Brass, and orders them to get some answers about UFOs.
What would it take today for the President of the United States to pick up the phone and call his top military commanders to focus urgent attention on getting answers about the UFO issue?
And … and … well, I guess that leads me to my take away from this book. It informs me or, I guess, clarifies for me how we came to be in the place we are today in ufology. Ii helps explain the sort of “crazy labyrinth” that is the “UFO question” in which we find ourselves endlessly lost here in 2019.
Reading Maccabee’s book gave me the notion that a certain normalcy or rationality held sway for a few short years after that June day in 1947 when the Kenneth Arnold sighted nine shiny objects flitting over Mount Rainier, kicking off the modern UFO era.
For example, the press was reporting the UFO story largely in a straightforward way. It was “just that facts, ma’me.” If entire fleets of UFOs were observed over Washington D.C., ordinary, mainstream newspapers, such as the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa, would sport the headline:
“SAUCERS SWARM OVER CAPITAL”
Sure, that’s a sensational headline, but it also happened to be simply factual and true. There was no need to hide it, censor it, spin it, mock it or sugar coat it for the reading public – the media just reported to the people what happened – so that citizens could have this information.
The same goes for the military and government. Early on, a fantastic UFO sighting was not immediately inserted into a meat grinder of denial, disinformation, propaganda or captured into a classified super-double-top-cosmic-secret-for-your-eyes-only-report. Rather, it was confronted directly as a problem for government experts to look at directly as they strove to come up with straightforward answers.
But after 1952 – and because of critical policy decisions made by top government officials in that amazing time – we were all kicked down the proverbial rabbit hole we remain lost in today. That’s mostly what Dr. Maccabee is suggesting in this book.
On the other hand, this is all a much more complex issue. There’s a lot more at play here. For example, the UFO phenomenon has evolved in texture and scope to an astonishing degree since 1952.
Just nine years after 1952, guess what happened? In 1961 a certain couple from Vermont reported they were abducted aboard a UFO by alien beings. They were subjected to medical tests – Barney Hill reported what is arguably the first ever report of an anal probe. His wife, Betty, had a long needled pushed into her belly. Barney was also forced to give a sperm sample.
And then things really got weird.
I have three words for you: “Praying Mantis Alien.” Or how about three more: “20 And Back.” See where I’m going here?
Oh for the days when swarms of flying saucers were blackening the skies over Washington! What simple times!
So, on the one hand, Dr. Maccabee’s book provided for me an excellent sense of sociological clarity and perspective on how the UFO issue developed from the 1950s to present time in terms of government, military, media and public dynamics.
On the other hand, this perspective “stays in its lane,” so to speak, as it represents a narrow slice of the overall phenomenon as it roils and boils today. That’s by no means a knock on Dr. Maccabee’s well-presented book. It provides a compelling narrative which adds to the realization that the UFO phenomenon is not only real, but that the conventional explanations supplied by the skeptics are demonstrably flawed.
PLEASE CHECK OUT MY REVIEWS OF OTHER UFO BOOKS, LINKED BELOW:
BLACK SWAN GHOSTS by Simeon Hein PhD
PASCAGOULA: THE CLOSEST ENCOUNTER by Calvin Parker
INCIDENT AT DEVIL’S DEN by Terry Lovelace
MANAGING MAGIC by Grant Cameron
Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS
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